Monthly Archives: June 2007

The Ball of Lightning

*As it occurred last evening, I must immediately report one of the most unusual experiences of my life. This most recent amazing phenomenon ranks right up there with – 1. encountering a full-grown manatee in the open ocean and swimming along with it for a half hour and – 2. breakfasting in the deep wilderness of the “Five Ponds Area” of the upper Adirondacks and sitting stock still while a black bear entered our campsite, wandered about, and stayed for an extended period of time just a few feet from our table. During the height of last night’s high-powered thunderstorm, our farmhouse was struck with a shot of lightning that blew out some electrical equipment. This is not unusual. It seems our property has a long reputation as lightning prone. We’ve been hit directly five times in the past four years. Experiencing our home being struck by lightning is common. What happened last evening however, is apparently one of the rare events in human experience.Between two flashes of lightning perhaps five minutes apart, I happened to gaze out the window to view the downpour. At that moment a fiery ball of brilliant yellow moved across our front yard about 10 feet from the ground. The ball itself was somewhere between the size of a grapefruit and a soccer ball. I saw its tight spherical shape engulfed in a sort of plasma while a tapered tail of bright yellow flame trailed behind it for a distance of about twenty-five feet. It moved not so quickly as a bird might fly across the yard. It did not “streak” but simply moved deliberately at a sort of cruising speed. My companions saw it only indirectly but I eyed it thoroughly, completely, and totally. As I tried to come to terms with what I had just seen, I mentioned ball lightning – a rare and mysterious phenomenon I had read about some time ago. But my recollection was that ball lightning is so rarely seen that its very existence is in doubt.Today, I drew an image of the thing to illustrate and reaffirm exactly what I had experienced. Spurred on by the very strangeness of that image, I searched the Net for “Ball Lightning”. This is what I found.Additional images of types of Ball LightningThe images I discovered and have published here confirm what I saw and what I drew.I have always considered nature to be thoroughly “super-natural” – as opposed to, let’s say, conventionally natural. Nature is a unique momentous continuously unfathomable and ineffable occurrence. There are no instants in nature in which one can not find the deepest revelation. Occasionally however, nature stuns us with something so utterly astonishing that we’re forced to reconsider its vast magnificence, great splendor, and endless depth. And, awestruck and trembling, we comprehend that we, ourselves, are part of it.*USA Today story on Ball Lightning**Image 1: Ball LightningImage 2: My SketchImage 3: Ball Lightning detail

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Show me your idols and I'll tell you who you are.

Our absurd obsession with the heroic status that disaffected anti-heroic youth hold in this media-soaked society is a sad situation. There are so many instances where alienated, crude – even criminal – people are held up to be paragons of coolness, hotness, and the desirable life that a huge number of members of their global audience have a knee-jerk emotional affection for the stereotype. Countless children, adolescents – and adults who should know better – identify with sociopathological pseudo-role models in the guise of celebrities, entertainers, performers, and pumped-up, hyped-up, immoral athletes – so full of themselves they act as if the rest of us are second-class citizens. And for some reason, millions of us accept the situation as reality.It is to their detriment. And it is our loss. As long as the purveyors of popular culture continue to profit from producing a constant stream of such figures for the consumption of young, impressionable, even chronologically mature minds, these obsessions will continue. Corrupt producers, content creators, marketers, and mercenary artists create the cliches while generations of media-manipulated children and adults eat them up like so much brain candy. Personally, I have come to loathe these stereotypes for what they are – cheap manipulative attempts to popularize losers and examples of how a corrupt cultural hegemony profits by appealing to the lowest common denominator of human urges and behavior.*Image: http://www.blogsmithmedia.com/www.tmz.com/media/2007/06/0608_paris_car_cry_inf.jpg

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The Moon in Your Mind

My previous conceptual piece on the dissonance between perception and cognition, entitled, Seeing Clouds, had to do with our tendency to persist in perceiving an illusion even when we know we are being fooled by our senses.That’s the sort of conundrum we humans in general encounter on a daily basis. It is similar to the well-known “Moon Illusion,” in which the full Moon near the horizon is perceived as larger than it appears when it is high in the sky. This is usually explained by our misperception of the relative diameters of the earth and the moon when viewed together given the absence or presence of surrounding objects. Problematically however, this explanation does not cover the case of airline pilots’ experience of the illusion as described here.Perception and our knowledge of how it works in relation to our minds is not completely understood and is not completely explained by scientific means. Suffice to say, our senses are fooled in ways that affect us all in similar ways..Even more fascinating than illusions perceived by all are illusions perceived in different ways by different people. Many of these involve color perception. While science defines color as the presence and absence of certain wavelengths of light that definition does not explain how color is perceived by individuals.It turns out that color is perceived differently by different viewers. This is described as “subjective color”.Philosophically, when we examine the realm of subjectivity, perception is a question of epistemology. Subjective experience is fascinating, especially in its implications. This entry deals with what I have found to be a compelling example of subjective experience.Recently, I have become aware of the fact that different viewers differently perceive the color of the moon at various times of the day and also at various times of the month. As of yet, I have no systematic understanding of these phenomena and neither does the scientific community (see hyperlinks below entry)Try this perception experiment by yourself and then with a few friends. Look at the moon in the daytime sky and compare its color with the color of the moon in the night sky on the same date. Try this during various phases of the moon – especially the full moon. Do you see color variations? Personally, the daytime moon appears quite white to me but the same moon at night appears to me to be very yellow. Now ask some friends to do the same. You’ll be surprised that you do not get anywhere near unanimous responses. For example, I have a friend who sees only a white moon both day and night. Even if we are standing next to each other, I will see a yellow moon at night while she sees only white.Think of the implications. What really can we be sure of? Do we know reality or do we know only illusion?Moon Color Links:’Why does the Moon look white in daytime while it is yellow at night?’. What color is the moon? Strange MoonlightThis explanation does make it clear that there is no single simple description of the color of the moon.*Yellow MoonWhite MoonColor-Intensified Moon

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